Algerian Churches get protection from closure

June 16, 2011 by  
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A Church in AlgeriaA senior magistrate has assured Algerian church leaders that no churches in their region will be closed in a welcome turnaround following a threatening closure notice from a police chief. Leaders of the Algerian Protestant Church Association (EPA) met with the Wali of Bejaia, the senior magistrate in the region, on Wednesday after a police high commissioner ordered the closure of all unregistered churches “across the national territory”. The magistrate assured them that, despite the police order, no church in the region would be closed and that he would personally see to the protection and continuity of the Protestant church’s activities. In a statement, the EPA said: The association of Algerian Protestant Churches, through its President, gratefully thank the Wali of Bejaia as well as the office of the security services for having taken the initiative to invite us to meet to clarify the situation of the protestant churches in the Wilaya (legal administrative region)… We rejoice that the decision of the Wali is in accord with the recent statements of the Minister of the Interior.

The head of the Algerian Protestant Church Association (EPA) – to which the majority of Algerian churches belong – received a notice, dated 22 May, from the Bejaia Police High Commissioner informing him that a decision had been made to close down all Christian places of worship throughout the country that were not designated for religious purposes. This applied to the majority of churches because it has proved impossible for them to obtain registration from the authorities following stringent regulations introduced in 2006, which were designed to restrict the religious activity of non-Muslims. At the meeting with the magistrate this week, the EPA leaders presented a file of documents showing all the administrative efforts they have taken since 2006 to comply with the regulations. Numerous applications have been met with no response. Similar closure notifications, like the one received in Bejaia, have been issued to EPA churches before, and several well-established churches were briefly closed in 2008. While the 2006 law remains in place, Algerian churches are vulnerable to these sporadic attempts to enforce it.

Churches Threatened in Algeria

June 7, 2011 by  
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Christians Praying in a Church in AlgeriaA provincial governor ordered seven churches in the province of Béjaïa to close recently, but Christian leaders do not intend to comply. On May 22, 2011, the Béjaïa police commissioner sent an official letter to the head of the Algerian Protestant Church Association (EPA), stating that all churches in his province and around the country should be closed immediately. The notice cited a May 8 decision from the governor of Béjaïa province.

The police commissioner wrote, “Close down all the worship places around the country once for all, the places which are used now and the places which are under construction.” According to the notice, if the churches do not comply, they may face “severe consequences and punishments.”

After delivering the notice, police summoned the leaders of seven churches in Béjaïa to sign a document accepting the order. But the leaders did not comply, citing the regional governor’s limited authority. They will continue to hold regular church services as scheduled.

“They said we have to be in conformity to the law,” Mustapha Krim, a president of the EPA, told Compass Direct News. “We’ve always tried to do this and have submitted all that they requested. Now it’s up to them to give us the authorization and do what they need to do.”

Church registration is required under Ordinance 06-03, a law enacted in 2006. The churches have tried to register, but officials have refused to grant or even respond to applications for registration, EPA leaders told Compass Direct. “This first notification may be the beginning of permanently closing every place of worship other than Islam throughout the national territory,” a church leader in Tizi Ouzou told International Christian Concern. “We must begin to make noise and to not allow this to pass over in silence, or else the authorities will crush us.”

– Compass Direct News, International Christian Concern, VOM Sources

5 year jail for Algerian Christian

June 3, 2011 by  
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Algerian authorities are clamping down on Christians and churches

Algerian authorities are clamping down on Christians and churches

Algeria, An Algerian Christian has been sentenced to five years in jail after sharing his faith with a Muslim neighbour.

Siagh Krimo, who is married with a nine-month-old baby, was arrested on 14 April along with another Christian. He was accused of blasphemy after sharing his faith with and giving a Christian CD to his Muslim neighbour; the other Christian was released.

At Krimo’s trial, held on 4 May, the prosecutor failed to produce the neighbour who had accused him of proselytizing and making defamatory statements against Muhammad, or any other witness or evidence. Despite this, Krimo was sentenced on 25 May to five years in jail and was fined 20,000 Algerian Dinars (£170, US$280, €194, AU$263, NZ$344). He is currently on bail and has ten days to appeal. The court based its decision on an article of the Algerian Penal Code that criminalises acts that “insult the prophet and any of the messengers of God, or denigrate the creed and precepts of Islam, whether by writing, drawing, declaration, or any other means”. Some Algerian Christians believe that the court came under pressure from higher authorities in the government. A representative of the Algerian Protestant Churches Association (EPA) said,

               The judge would have normally acquitted Krimo of all charges, but I think he received an order from his superiors to strike hard.

Krimo was known to hold weekly prayer services at his home; Algerian Christians suspect these were being closely monitored by the police. Krimo’s harsh sentence comes just days after the head of EPA received a notice from a High Police Commissioner informing him that a decision had been made to close down all Christian places of worship throughout the country that are not designated for religious purposes. One Christian leader said Krimo’s conviction and the church closure order were part of “a campaign against the Christian faith” in Algeria. The World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA-RLC) has linked the recent clampdown on Christians in Algeria to the lifting of the 19-year-old state of emergency following public protests inspired by revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.  The WEA-RLC said it “suspects that the crackdown on Christians and their organisations is an attempt to prevent the church from growing in the absence of restrictions that were supposed to follow the lifting of the state of emergency on 24 February”. The constitution of Algeria protects the religious freedom of non-Muslims, but it also states that Islam is the state religion and prohibits behaviour incompatible with Islamic morality. Encouraging a Muslim to convert to Christianity or possessing materials likely to “shake the faith of a Muslim” are punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

– Barnabas Team

Algerian Police Orders Closure of All Churches

May 27, 2011 by  
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Algerian ChristiansAlgerian Christians have appealed for urgent prayer after the police ordered the closure of churches across the country “once and for all”.

The head of the Algerian Protestant Church Association (EPA) – to which the majority of Algerian churches belong – received a notice, dated 22 May, from a High Police Commissioner informing him that a decision had been made to close down all Christian places of worship throughout the country that are not designated for religious purposes.

Most church buildings have not been officially designated because it has proved impossible for them to obtain registration from the authorities following stringent regulations introduced in 2006, which were designed to restrict the religious activity of non-Muslims.

The closure order applies to existing church buildings and those under construction. The High Commissioner threatened “severe consequences and punishments” for violation of the order.

Church clampdown

Algeria is overwhelmingly Muslim; there are around 60,000 Christians in the country, almost all of them converts from Islam. Christians enjoyed six years of relative religious freedom following the end of the civil war in 2000, but the authorities have been clamping down on their activities since the new regulations were introduced.

These required churches to register with a National Commission set up specifically for this purpose, but numerous applications have been met with no response. Churches have been subjected to sporadic closures and police clampdowns on their unregistered activities.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:

This closure order is the latest and most worrying development in what appears to be a systematic campaign by the authorities to eradicate Christianity in Algeria. Many churches will be driven underground with believers denied the right to practise their faith freely. But praise God that, despite the authorities’ best efforts, the Church in Algeria is growing.

Barnabas Fund supports a number of projects in Algeria including pastors’ training and support, a church-based nursery for Christian children and a theological institute. We have also supported a leadership and discipleship training school and small business initiatives for Christians.

Algerian Christians have made the following prayer requests:

  • “May the Lord give wisdom to the church leaders how to deal with this new wave of persecution. The vast majority of the churches are affected by this order.
  • For the Lord to take away the spirit of fear and give His Spirit of power, love and self control, to stand firm against the threats of the authorities. (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • For the abolition of the March 2006 ordinances.
  • That the Church will be allowed to meet and worship in full freedom.
  • May our Lord Jesus manifest powerfully His salvation and glorious victory against the evil one in this situation. Amen!”
 

– Barnabas Team